A pub owner is seeking to rent part of a popular Sheffield park to create a beer garden, but its plans have proved controversial.
True North, which runs several watering holes in the city, took over The Waggon & Horses beside Millhouses Park last year and claims to have transformed the venue from a struggling business to a thriving family-friendly meeting spot.
The company believes the pub could become even more of an 'asset' to park users if it is allowed to rent a small parcel of parkland, which it says is little used, and turn that into a beer garden.
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It has offered to contribute £25,000 upfront for new play equipment including a disabled roundabout and yo pay an annual rent of £20,000, which it says is well above the market rate and would be enough to fund a full-time park keeper.
But the Friends of Millhouses Park and the Carterknowle and Millhouses Community Group both oppose the proposal, and the former has launched a petition to 'keep the park public', which has attracted nearly 1,400 signatures.
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The friends group says it opposes the loss of free public access to any parkland, which it believes would set a 'dangerous precedent', while the community group has voiced concerns over the potential for anti-social behaviour and broken glass at the site, which lies close to the playground.
True North's founder Kane Yeardley says the land in question measures just over 400 sqm, which equates to 0.3 per cent of the park.
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He is seeking a five-year lease and is so confident in the chain's safety record, he has offered to give up the lease should there be any anti-social behaviour or crime linked to the beer garden.
He said: "We're passionate about the park, and we have lots of ideas for charity events there.
"I agree that the park shouldn't be sold off but we're offering to lease a very small area, which is rarely used, to create a lovely outdoor space in which families can eat.
"We believe it would be a real asset for the park, and the rental income would help sustain the park's management."
Mr Yeardley, who lived in Millhouses for 20 years before recently moving, added that he was 'very pleased' with what had been achieved in the first year at the pub.
He said it has hosted several popular family events, including a Halloween ghost walk and breakfast with Santa, while its 'unique' collection of stuffed owls inspired by the Harry Potter films attracts visitors from far and wide.
The friends group said: "We have had informal discussions with Parks and Countryside about the plans to lease an area of the park, at which we relayed our position that, as would be the case with any such proposals, we are against the loss of any parkland from free public access and use and this sets a dangerous precedent for the parkland."
The petition, started by Christine Gunby states that the park serves an area which already has the smallest amount of green space per person in the city.
"Having recently been deprived of even more open space in this area, it is crucial that there is no erosion of any public open space in this park," it adds.
Mike Hodson, secretary of the community group, said: "We are opposed in principle to the sale or lease of any part of our parks for commercial purposes.
"We have no objection to ice cream vans paying to use the park, or to the cafe and boating lake, because they're all traditionally connected to parks, but for us a beer garden would be a step too far.
"The area they're asking for is practically on top of the children's facilities. Who's going to stop people wandering into the park with a pint, creating the potential for broken glass?"
He added that if the owners wanted a beer garden, they could convert part of the pub car park, though Mr Yeardley claimed this is unsuitable as it is beside a busy road and there is already limited parking for elderly and disabled visitors.
True North has discussed the move with the council but no decision has been made, and no planning application submitted.